Prior to sailing on the Pride of Aloha, we did quite a bit of research and read lots of negative reviews. We felt we could overlook the lack of service or the mediocre food because of the itinerary we were going to travel. However, as we got closer to our sailing many cruisers came back reporting problems with the air-conditioning aboard the ship. That was a little something we didn't think we could overlook.
That was one of my first problems with NCLA's customer service--they denied repeatedly, that anything was happening. Then we finally got someone to admit there was a problem and a supervisor was willing to switch our cabin for us. We did that only to discover we were still in the affected areas.
For us, this trip to Hawaii was a belated honeymoon and the idea of spending it sweltering in a cabin wasn't appealing--that was when we got the gift of a lifetime. My mother (a TA, I'll admit) called NCL and paid for us to upgrade into one of the penthouse suites. The reasoning was if the AC was out, at least we could sleep on the rather large balcony and have some privacy (We'd read reports on CC of people sleeping out on deck. OUCH!)
Once we got to the port, check-in was a breeze. Yes, we had VIP check-in and I'm sure that helped. Our suite was ready and we hadn't even been in our cabin for more than half an hour before one of our butlers introduced himself. But the other butler--never met him in the course of the entire week.
The suite itself was amazing--one of the biggest I've experienced on a cruise. But when I went into the bathroom, the first thing I noticed was that it looked as if the shower hadn't been cleaned. There was old, moldy water in the soap dish. I figured maybe it had been overlooked in the haste to get the rooms ready so I didn't bring it up the cabin steward. Only problem was it stayed like that all week. By the middle of the week, it was a private joke between my husband and I--would the dish ever be cleaned? We used the bathtub and not the shower and sure enough--when we disembarked, the moldy water was still there.
But other than that, I found the service in our cabin to be just fine. We always put the little card out asking for service when we left and by the time we'd come back in the afternoon, it was ready.
Food--of course, we'd heard the bad reviews on the food. Have to say, of all the cruises we've taken, it was the least memorable food. The breakfast and lunch buffets were blah. And the one night we went to the dining room, the service was slow. (And it wasn't because the dining room was full--we actually went the night of the ship's luau. There were very few tables being used. But our waiter was more interested in talking to the table full of girls seated next to us than in taking our orders or the orders of the couple seated behind us.)
After that, we opted to eat every dinner in one of the specialty restaurants and all of them were good...Pacific Heights and the Bistro were our two favorites though. The waiters remembered us after our first visits and the service was also great. We went every night after 9 to take advantage of the half-price cover. To us, it was worth the investment. I'd rather pay $10 for great food than have mediocre food for free.
We didn't have much time to enjoy the shows...after dinner, we'd pretty much just sit outside, then go to bed. We did each have spa services and I have to say--both were phenomenal. My massage was one of the best I've had period--it even rivaled some of the massages I've received at home. And my husband enjoyed his facial (Although the one warning I will give you is don't expect a full deep cleaning...a moving ship + metal tools = disaster. So it will not be the kind of facial you'd get in land-based spa and you may not want to pay for a halfsies facial...but DH did enjoy his...) We also used the gym on multiple occasions and I thought that too, had some great facilities. My husband enjoyed the POA gym more than the gyms we've experienced on other lines.
For the most part, we did tours on our own. However, the two shore excursions we booked through the ship were fine. We had an amazing time on the Captain Zodiac tour...I'd recommend it in a heartbeat. And disembarking was a breeze with the easy-fly program. We had absolutely no issues.
Overall, we had a good time. I didn't feel the service was bad, but it wasn't phenomenal either. Same goes for the food. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. However, it was one of the most amazing vacations we've ever taken--Hawaii itself was wonderful and the cruise itself, well, maybe we went in with such low expectations we were pleasantly surprised. I don't know if we avoided some of the mishaps because we were in a suite and had butlers and a concierge, etc. but if I had the opportunity to sail the POA again, I don't think I'd turn it down.
But I wouldn't pay a king's ransom either...I think our next trip to Hawaii will be land-based. But for the price, the POA was great and it gave us a great taste of what Hawaii has to offer.